What I’ve Learned From “Learning Assessment”

By Roxanne Wilson

What is Assessment?

Assessment is the systematic collection of evidence about student learning in order to improve that learning. Assessment occurs on many levels, such as the individual or student level, the course level, the program level, and the institutional level.

Helpful Resources

Angelo and Cross argue in their classic Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers that “through close observation of students in the process of learning, the collection of frequent feedback on students’ learning, and the design of model classroom experiments, classroom teachers can learn much about how students learn, and more specifically, how students respond to particular teaching approaches.”

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning provides multiple resources for classroom assessments as well as workshops during the fall and Spring Convocations by faculty leaders who are utilizing various assessment techniques to document student learning.

Getting Personal

As new faculty, the review of resources is helpful as a starting point. The greater question is how to create and synthesize opportunities to understand how your teaching is impacting the student’s learning.  I initially found I wanted students to have a positive impression of me. I felt somewhat uncertain about how the overall distribution of learning over a semester would be experienced by students. I was uncertain how stringent to be with expectations or how to apply feedback from students to adapt my teaching.

For example, one student was very thorough emailed me multiple times with errors in the material from the textbook, deadline questions and other details. As I listened carefully, agreed with some of the nuances and then “fixed them,” I found I was actually confusing other less-detailed students.  At the end of the semester, I came to the conclusion that I should ask for specific feedback at intervals, answer questions in class (versus emailing) and look for patterns.

I am also consistently assessing student learning based on my experiences, student feedback and from peers.  Self reflection includes taking time to listen, soliciting feedback and putting those thoughts together over time. In my second semester, I took a more measured approach to see what the patterns were. I evaluated how I might approach last-minute versus first-minute styles of students:

  • First-minute students often wanted detailed instructions, which might not leave space for critical thinking.
  • Last-minute students wanted the “basics,” which also doesn’t leave space and time to learn critical thinking.

Teaching and directions that are respectful but still leave room to think are a direction I am headed.  I am learning from experienced faculty. I asked for feedback from my colleagues. I read my evaluations across classes to look for trends in strengths or weaknesses. I asked students in class what they think would improve the course or my teaching in an anonymous survey and in-class. I asked instructors at the next level what skills they were observing that were different than previous years and where I could target my focus.

Questions:

What is effective in assessing learning?

Tips for new teachers in focusing on the most pertinent feedback.

About the author: Roxanne Wilson is Assistant Professor of Nursing.

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